Intelligence gone wrong? Why Intelligent people are more prone to mental illness

By Memory Chamisa

INTELLIGENCE has many advantages and is usually associated with better grades, a good job and salary, but it comes with some drawbacks too.

We often hear stories of people who were extremely intelligent and outstanding when it comes to academics.

Some even go on to have successful careers, but while scaling up the ladder they somehow suffer from mental illness that reduces them to vagabonds.

Studies have also revealed that a higher intelligence quotient (IQ) is associated with mental illness, including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

The big question though is what would have gone wrong? Is an evil hand at play or are they just the unlucky ones?

From a traditional point of view, it is said sometimes intelligent people are bewitched in order to render them useless and have no purpose in life.

“In our culture, people are very much jealous of each other’s success, especially those that are intelligent. Most of the cases that we treat of people with mental illness are caused by their very own close relatives who want them to become nothing and be on the same level with them or even worse if it’s on poverty terms,” explained Mbuya Mavhu, a traditionalist.

“Often, we see people who were intelligent at school on the streets begging for food and some even eat from dust bins. Some even leave their professions because they are mentally ill, but before that they were respected professionals in society all because of people who are jealous and envious.

“They cast an evil eye. In Shona we say ‘kurasira mamhepo’, that just robs the victim of a prosperous life or career.

“Some even come back home from abroad where they will be plying their trade and this is very common in our families and African traditions. You often hear so and so was a doctor, engineer, professor, but when you see them, the reflection is that of a vagabond.”

However, medical experts say this can happen to anyone and people must not be ashamed of mental illness.

Psychiatrist, Dr Anesu Chinoperekwei said, “We all can suffer from mental illness and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. This is most common to people who are intelligent and have a high IQ than their peers. We often see the signs early but ignore them. Some sit in corners on their own, sometimes they talk to themselves, they are anti-social and they put their all in their studies and work.”

She added that people with higher IQs are often more socially isolated, which leads to more anxiety and depression.

“If they have problems they keep them to themselves as they cannot share, which leads to a mental break down when it gets too much for them to handle.

“We encourage people to have a healthy mental state, through getting as much rest as possible and socialising. Yes, a career is important as well as academics, but one needs to have a balance. Be able to share and speak to someone.”

Dr Chinoperekwei added, “There is so much that is happening out there and everyone is going through something be it financially, socially and even politically.

“A healthy mental state is important and people must not be ashamed of seeking help through psychologists and psychiatrists, it is normal and if assisted you can go back to leading a normal life.”

Whether diagnosis is medical or traditional, intelligence gone wrong is largely related to mental illness.